Opponents of the vaccine mandate argue that it is an encroachment on federal workers’ rights that are not authorized by the Constitution or federal statutes. The Biden administration issued an executive order in September 2021 requiring vaccinations for all executive branch agency employees with exemptions for medical and religious reasons. A nationwide injunction against the requirement was issued in January by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown.
A majority of the full appeals court voted to vacate that ruling and reconsider the case. The 16 active judges heard the case on September 13, joined by a senior judge who is no longer a full-time member of the court. Judge Stephen Higginson, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, wrote the main dissenting opinion, arguing that the court has failed to explain why the president does not have the power to regulate workplace safety for his employees.